Today was the second day we spent exploring La Ciudad Blanca, or Arequipa. The morning was spent leisurely exploring the vast expanse of the white city. As the Ole students that we are, we engaged in a multitude of opportunities to learn about the local culture, history, and faith.Members of the group toured to the local Alpaca farm, learning about the Peruvian textiles industry, others visited the Ice Maiden exhibit of Incan child sacrifice, and some engaged in history of the Catholic faith at the Santa Catalina Monastery and Basilica Cathedral. Even our free days are filled with endless learning opportunities.
A handful of our group had both an educational and spiritual experience this morning attended mass at Basilica Cathedral in the Plaza de Armas. Having already toured the cathedral and it’s affiliated museum, we thought it would be fitting to actually attend a Sunday morning service. We were so fortunate to have such a spiritual experience take place in a such a stunning place. Mass was lead by the Bishop of Arequipa, which, for many of us, was the first time we had encountered such a figure of the Catholic church. As many noted after the service, it was interesting to observe cultural distinctions between our practice of faith at home and what we experienced here. To use Jack’s words, “Communion was kind of like driving in Peru.” It was a bit of a free for all as everyone rushed to approach the alter, without guidance of the usher or orderly procession.
Upon reflection on our experience within Arequipa these last two days, the group recognized the vast socioeconomic and racial trends throughout this city, particularly as we ascend upward toward our place of stay. By living on the very outskirts of the developing city, we are gifted with the opportunity to not only see, but experience the drastic contrast between the absolute poverty of Alta Cayma and immense wealth of downtown Arequipa. The city itself is within a mountain basin, and the developing communities extend upward toward the mountains. Along this vertical incline we have observed a socioeconomic decline. Another trend in this socioeconomic slope up the the mountain, is a trend in the race of the local citizens observable as easily as the shade of their skin. The combination of these two trends speaks strongly to the racial difficulties this country faces which has been a topic of discussion throughout our time in Peru.
We look forward to our last days spent in this developing community and our final days in this wonderful country. See you in four days!
Annika and Colten